Study Says Kids Who Grow Up On Whole Milk Less Likely to Be Overweight

What's in your fridge?

I grew up in a 2% household.

A family dinner wasn't a family dinner without a glass of milk from the gallon jug with the blue cap.

It served my brothers and I well, but perhaps whole milk would've done us even better.


I grew up in a 2% household.

A family dinner wasn't a family dinner without a glass of milk from the gallon jug with the blue cap.

It served my brothers and I well, but perhaps whole milk would've done us even better.

A new review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found children who drank whole milk had 40 percent lower odds of being overweight or obese compared to those who consumed reduced-fat milk.

From Science Daily:

The research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed 28 studies from seven countries that explored the relationship between children drinking cow's milk and the risk of being overweight or obese. None of the studies—which involved a total almost 21,000 children between the ages of one and 18 years old—showed that kids who drank reduced-fat milk had a lower risk of being overweight or obese. Eighteen of the 28 studies suggested children who drank whole milk were less likely to be overweight or obese.

While the lead author, Dr. Jonathan Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, says additional research will need to be conducted to confirm if whole milk caused the lower risk of overweight or obesity, there are several reasons why that could be the case.

Americans were once terrified of fat. Some flawed research that identified dietary fat as a key contributor of obesity and heart disease led to the "fat-free" craze of the 1990s.

People refused to eat egg yolks. Nuts were too high in fat to be healthy. Food manufacturers found ways to take animal fats out of products like cookies, ice cream and muffins and replace it with other ingredients—mostly sugar. But that didn't matter, since it was now "fat free" and therefore healthy.

We now know this thinking was critically flawed. It's one cause of the obesity epidemic we're still trying to fight our way out of. 

There are many reasons why our bodies benefit from good sources of naturally occurring fat. Whole milk has a higher fat content than 2%, 1% and skim. The more we learn about whole milk, the more there is to like.

Skim and low-fat milk simply don't fill you up the same way whole milk does, so you're more likely to consume additional calories after drinking them. 

Milk fat also has a number of recently discovered health benefits, such as decreasing infertility in women, lowering the possibility of colorectal cancer in men and improving the body's ability to build muscle. Organic whole milk has more omega-3 fatty acids than other milk varieties (50 percent more than 2% milk and 66 percent more than 1% milk.) Omega-3 fatty acids can't be produced by our bodies, so they must come from outside food sources. They help to reduce inflammation, blood-clotting, cholesterol and blood pressure, in addition to conferring a handful of other benefits.

"The fat content of milk is where many of its nutrients are located, such as vitamin A, vitamin K2 and omega-3 fatty acids. When you remove the fat to create skim milk, you're removing a lot of those nutrients as well," says Brian St. Pierre, a dietitian at Precision Nutrition.

Mother Nature creates food in a way that's naturally synergistic, and those effects are often degraded the more we alter food out of its natural state.

For example, a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that whole eggs and egg whites both have the same amino acid bioavailability—shortly after consumption, about 60-70 percent of their amino acid content is available in the blood to create new muscle. However, when researchers directly examined protein synthesis in the muscle, they saw that the whole eggs led to a significantly greater response, directly translating to better muscle building.

It's not a stretch to wonder if a similar phenomenon exists for milk, with the natural fat content helping increase the absorption rate of the natural protein. 

Provided you tolerate dairy well, there's nothing wrong with some whole milk and real butter. And dairy is one category where buying organic can make a significant difference.

Check the Cornucopia Institute Scorecard to compare the various conditions under which different brands of cow milk are produced. The card scores each brand based on factors such as hormones and antibiotics used on the cows, health and longevity of the cows, and grazing and open land provided for the cows. All of those factors can impact the nutritional makeup of a cow's milk.

Photo Credit: skhoward/iStock